I am a huge proponent of just doing weird things with the construction and scheme of this year's edition of Team USA. Without the actual best of the NBA playing, there's a lot more wiggle room to do anything. There's a bit of a what-do-we-have-to-lose mindset on a team without its two best scorers, inside and out (Kevin Love and Kevin Durant). To compound that, the loss of the lockdown perimeter defense on the wings (Paul George) suddenly allows much less margin for error on a team that's perennially willing to give up size underneath for sheer athleticism and overwhelming ability.
Last Saturday, Coach Krzyzewski tossed out a starting lineup of Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, and Kenneth Faried. That qualifies as...interesting..in my own counselled measurement of weirdness. I echo most of Seth Partnow's thoughts on the construction of the team but as long as there's creativity, the staff is less at fault here. It isn't as if they're really rolling the ball out and praying for the best. This isn't Larry Brown's team.
Curry was on the court for only 21 minutes but that was more a proponent of foul trouble than effectiveness. Klay Thompson often subbed in for James Harden or Derrick Rose and tallied up nearly 25 minutes. I would love to see some four-guard formations to go with Davis in the middle or even some Andre Drummond-Anthony Davis frontcourts but I'm only daydreaming.
Steph started off as the primary shooting guard, coming off screens and generally playing without the ball as Harden dribbled, dribbled, and (shock!) dribbled. Rose was curiously passive but that's likely him trying to play within his teammates and still fighting off rust - as the missed dunk showed. When Harden and Rose hit the bench, Curry started to run as more of a playmaker and had several gorgeous crossovers and a jumper. There were a couple sloppy turnovers and the usual assortment of lazy one-handed passes, so look for Coach K to use more Kyrie Irving in two or even three-guard looks at the playmaker position. Because of Curry's flexbility at the superfluous guard spot, he's one of three players that need to score plenty for Team USA to stay afloat, joining Harden and Davis.
Thompson pretty much functioned as the exact same player he is for the Warriors. He came off screens, took some hard dribbles to the basket, provided us cringe-worthy moments when he dribbled laterally, and exhibited the trigger-happy mentality on a three taken with 20 seconds left in the shot clock with the first half winding down. All in all, Thompson's an essential piece for Coach K because set shooters like Chandler Parsons, Kyle Korver or even a Damian LIllard do not possess the two-way game he does.
Team USA usually possesses insane athleticism, and there are some on this squad, but the saving grace of this unit might be their quickness and awareness of when to trap. Individually, Curry, Rose, Irving, Harden, and LIllard are below average defenders. But we can safely bump them up a notch because of the international competition and because there's less time on the clock and with better substitutes, they can afford to gamble a bit more. For a player as handsy as Curry, as evidenced by the four quick fouls, this bodes well. The problem remains the rim protection but they will have to live with the rare dunks as long as they turn the other team over enough.
Thompson picked up Brazil's best guard - usually Leandro Barbosa - every time he stepped on the court. USA's lone above-average perimeter defender left, Thompson will have his hands full against the better teams of the world. That isn't to say he isn't up to the task, hell it's why the Warriors wouldn't trade him in the first place (and there's the quota!). USA can still win without lockdown defense but without the length of Durant or George on the wings, it's become apparent that Thompson is the most important defender other than Davis. That is...well, that's something.
Anyway, game at 4 PM PST against Dominican Republic on NBA TV. Throw all those thoughts in the comments.